To Kill a Mockingbird: Critical Analysis Essay
Traits and Gender
Imagine a baby wrapped in a blue blanket. What is the first gender one thinks of? Boy. The definition of femininity is traits, qualities, or behaviors that are generally associated with women. So wearing pink, or talking in a high voice is called being a girl and that ladies were meant to agree with what people said and work at home with the children. Why does that have to define who people are? Why can’t girls like the color blue or be strong? Why are guys called girls when they can’t throw very well? The way someone dresses or acts should not reflect whether they are a girl or guy. Harper Lee stresses in her book, To Kill a Mockingbird, that depictions and surface image do not substantialize a human being’s gender identification.
When I was younger, my grandma and my cousin came to visit from Taiwan. One afternoon, she came into the living room and told my sister, my cousin and I to go change into our fanciest dresses while she set up the table. After a couple minutes of searching, my sister and I finally came out of our bedrooms in big, poofy, ‘princess’ dresses to see the table all set up with napkins, plates and a whole bunch of silverware. She first started to teach us how to walk with our shoulders back and head held high. Next, she taught us how to sit and that we couldn’t have our knees apart and how to use the different utensils and even how to laugh. Harper Lee has also written about the standards held for girls in To Kill a Mockingbird. She wrote about how Scout’s aunt, Aunt Alexandra, was always trying to change Scout to be more like a girl as said in this quote, “Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope to be a lady if I wore breeches; when I said I could do nothing in a dress, she said I wasn’t supposed to be doing things that required pants. Aunt Alexandra’s vision of my deportment involved playing with small stoves, tea sets, and wearing the Add-A-Pearl necklace she gave me when I was born; furthermore I should be a ray of sunshine in my father’s lonely life. I suggested that one could be a ray of sunshine in pants just as well, but Aunty said that one had to behave like a sunbeam, I was born good but had grown progressively worse every year” (Lee 108). This quote shows what women were supposed to be like and how it has been passed down the generations.
The times have changed though and the standards for women have changed. Girls don’t have to wear dresses. Now, girls are most seen wearing leggings and a t-shirt or sweats. Women aren’t always staying home and taking care of the children. Girls are more commonly seen to play sports. Yet there are still people who say things such as, “You throw like a girl!” This reminds me of what Jem said to Scout when she wouldn’t retrieve the tire from the Radley’s yard. “ ‘Nothin' to it. I swear, Scout, sometimes you act so much like a girl it's mortifyin'’ ” (Lee 50). These are both said as insults. Girls are typically seen as wimps and, as said in this quote, “Jem told me I was being a girl, that girls always imagined things…” (Lee 54). Why do actions get to define who we are as a person?
These standards not only change people but also make people insecure. It makes it harder for people to be confident in who they really are. To ‘fit in’ with the crowd, girls pick pink and purple instead of red or green. I used to have an issue with what my favorite color was. I liked the color blue back then, but it was always seen as a ‘guy’s color’ that when someone asked me what my favorite color was, and I said blue, they would reply with, “Really? Not pink?” It wasn’t until I was older, when my mom said she also liked the color blue, that I started to feel more confident. Traits and actions might define who a person is, but they do not determine the gender.